Half of married Brits admit having feelings for their ‘work spouse’ and almost one in 10 have already cheated, a new study has found.
Research reveals that thousands of marriages are being rocked by rows, lies and suspicions about the close friendships that many of us share with a colleague at work.
We work well when we get on with our colleagues but it’s important that those who are married or in relationships know where to draw the line.
Often with good reason as while a fifth (20 per cent) had flirted with each other, nine per cent confessed to kissing and eight per cent had slept together.
Seventeen per cent admitted they knew their workmate felt more than friendship because they had told them.
The study by family lawyers, Slater and Gordon, was based on a survey of 1,079 married Brits who had a close friend at work that they would consider their work spouse.
Half of those (49 per cent) had thought about them in a romantic or sexual way and three in 10 (30 per cent) had gone beyond the platonic, from flirting to a full-blown affair.
It also revealed a worrying lack of honesty, with more than one in five (21 per cent) confessing to hiding the closeness of the friendship from their wife or husband and one in 10 (10 per cent) lying about who they were with because their partner wouldn’t like it if they knew.
Kaleel Anwar, a divorce law specialist, said the threat of the work spouse to marriages was not uncommon.
He said: “These figures show what we see on a regular basis – that people cheat on their partners with their ‘work spouse’. What’s of an equal concern is the large number of people who admit having feelings for their colleague.
“For a person to divorce their partner it is not necessary to prove that they have cheated, just that they have acted unreasonably. To have feelings for someone else would fall into that category.”
A quarter (25 per cent) had gone in early or stayed late just to see their work spouse and almost one in 10 (nine per cent) admitted making up a business trip or meeting that wasn’t really needed so they could spend more time together.
As well as seeing each other all day, more than three-quarters of work spouses (76 per cent) were in contact outside the office too. Twenty-eight per cent regularly socialised together – 18 per cent without other colleagues – and one in five (20 per cent) spoke at least once a day.
Conversations were rarely just work-related, however, with almost a third of couples sharing private jokes (29 per cent), confiding in each other about personal issues (24 per cent), their other halves (22 per cent) and exchanging flirty messages (12 per cent).
Suspicions about work spouses caused marital rows in just eight per cent of cases, but more than three times as many (27 per cent) said their partner was unaware of how close they and their work spouse were.
Kaleel Anwar added: “Work is a huge part of our lives and particularly in high-pressure jobs, having a friend who understands can be crucial as often we spend more time there than we do at home.
“We work well when we get on with our colleagues but it’s important that those who are married or in relationships know where to draw the line.”